We Asked 3 Interior Designers: What’s the Best Refrigerator?
Six designer-approved picks, from customizable to compact.
Updated Oct 12, 2018 2:54 AM
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Buying a new refrigerator is no small task—and no small purchase. When you’re looking at spending (potentially) thousands of dollars, you want to be assured you’re making a good investment for your home that will be problem-free for years to come. And if it looks good, too? All the better.
Not only do you want the best refrigerator for your needs, it must fit into however many square feet you’re working with (that is, unfortunately, nonnegotiable) and hopefully fit in seamlessly with your kitchen design as well. And then there are countless other features to consider. Do you want the freezer on the top, bottom, or side? Should you customize your fridge to match your cabinets? And how do you feel about ice machines? Water dispensers? Climate-controlled drawers? How about an LED touch-screen display with WiFi so you can stream music while looking up an Alison Roman recipe?
- Best overall: Sub-Zero Classic French Door Refrigerator/Freezer
- Best value: Galanz Top Freezer Retro Refrigerator
- Best high-tech: Miele Mastercool Fridge-Freezer
- Best slim style: Smeg Retro-Style Refrigerator
- Best customizable: Samsung Bespoke Refrigerator
- Best high-end: Monogram Smart Built-In Side-by-Side Refrigerator
- Best energy efficient: Café French-Door Refrigerator
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Types of refrigerators: There are four common configurations of refrigerators: top freezer, French door, bottom freezer, and side-by-side. Generally, top freezers are the most affordable (and most nostalgic, since Grandma likely had one, plus most efficient, since the compressor that generates heat is located under the unit, and it takes more energy to keep a bottom freezer, well, freezing). French door refrigerators are oftentimes the most expensive but come with the most benefits—primarily wide, adjustable shelves and good lighting. Bottom freezers have many of the advantages of a French door refrigerator and come with a slightly less heart-stopping price tag. Finally, side-by-sides allow you to have more items at eye level, but the shelves generally aren’t very wide, so family-size frozen pizzas might not fit.
Size and capacity: Measure, then measure again, and measure everything: depth, height, width, and clearance for the doors; you don’t want to hit the island every time you reach for a LaCroix. Build in at least an inch around the entire refrigerator for ventilation, too. And since refrigerators don’t magically appear in your kitchen, you’ll also want to measure doorways and other obstacles that your fridge may run into during delivery. (Can you hear Ross from Friends yelling “pivot”?) As for capacity, generally 19- to 22 cubic feet comfortably fits enough food for a family of four.
Energy efficiency: To keep your utility bills in check—and, more important, to be kinder to Mother Nature—select a refrigerator certified under the Energy Star program. Those fridges are about 9 percent more efficient than models that meet the federal minimum energy efficiency standard. To illustrate: Say your refrigerator lives 12 years. In that time, you’ll have avoided your carbon footprint by 4,900 pounds of CO2.
Features: Is an ice maker important to you? What about through-the-door filtered water? Or adjustable shelves that allow you to properly organize your fridge, squeezing in a slim sheet cake and multiple bottles of Reisling? Refrigerators do so much more than, well, refrigerate, so consider what’s most important to you, features-wise.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Sub-Zero Classic French Door Refrigerator/Freezer
“When it comes to refrigeration, nobody does it better than Sub-Zero,” says Armstrong. You’ll pay top dollar for a Sub-Zero refrigerator, but she swears in the long run it’s worth it. “I’ve talked to appliance repair guys and they say they rarely, if ever, have to work on a Sub-Zero,” she says. “You want a reliable, beautiful refrigerator. Sub-Zero is that product.”
Davis agrees, noting Sub-Zero’s dual compressor design and patented vacuum seal system. “The products are built on the idea that monitoring temperature and humidity and circulating fresh air prolongs the life of your food, and they do just that,” she says.
Best Value: Galanz Top Freezer Retro Refrigerator
Galanz’s retro-style refrigerators prove that stylish, affordable fridges exist. There are few frills with this one, but there are no headaches either. If you mostly need a reliable refrigerator, no bells and whistles necessary, opt for this 12-cubic-foot model. It combines the look and feel of a retro fridge with the convenience of a modern appliance. Best yet, the price tag is reasonable.
Best High-Tech: Miele Mastercool Fridge-Freezer
Look, Ma, no handles! The fridge of the future is here. Meet the Miele Mastercool design, which includes slick, sophisticated features like a handle-less push-to-open option. Other cool selling points: a NoFrost system, so you’ll never have to defrost again, and a bright interior thanks to LED lights, so you can always find the pickle jar no matter where it’s hiding. Most important, though, due to its stable temperature and humidity, food stays fresh up to three times longer, reducing waste and redundant trips to the grocery store.
Best Slim Style: Smeg Retro-Style Refrigerator
Ford gives refrigerators from Smeg, the beloved retro-looking appliance brand, a thumbs-up, especially if you have a tiny kitchen. “When I am working on smaller spaces, like cozy cottages and cabins, my go-to is always a Smeg,” says Ford. “It takes up minimal square footage and doesn’t feel too modern.” Choose from a variety of colors, including pale pink and electric yellow, and if you’re short (really short) on space, Smeg also carries mini refrigerators.
Best Customizable: Samsung Bespoke Refrigerator
If customization is king, consider the Samsung four-door the ruler of refrigerator land. For the four-door flex model, you can choose between a glass, matte glass, or steel finish that each comes in a variety of colors, including rose pink and sky blue. Next, choose between a full-depth standard fit or a shallower counter depth, which will give you a built-in look. Then…voilà!
Best High-End: Monogram Smart Built-In Side-by-Side Refrigerator
Best Energy Efficient: Café French-Door Refrigerator
Take it from us, or take it from Sarah Sherman Samuel, who has this Café fridge in her Michigan home. Its innovative features, like a hands-free auto-fill dispenser and back wall of illuminating LED lights, are reason enough to invest in this fridge. Even better, though: It’s Energy Star-certified, meaning this model is nicer to the earth and your bank account.
Our Top 3 Tips for Buying a Refrigerator
- While you can start the fridge shopping process online, it’s best to see the model you have your heart set on in person before committing, so you can get a feel for its size and features, like how smooth the drawers pull.
- If you’re in the market for a deal, shop for a fridge during a holiday appliance sale, oftentimes around Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Black Friday.
- Get the extended warranty. Most refrigerator issues occur within the first four years of owning a fridge, past a general warranty.
The Last Word
Now that you’ve decided whether or not you want a water dispenser, where you want the freezer located, and how many cubic feet you’ll need to properly store your collection of cheeses, you can be on your merry way to the appliance store. Remember: A refrigerator is an investment for your home, the earth, and your wallet. Choose thoughtfully.
How We Vetted These Products
Every product in a Domino guide meets these criteria:
- They blend form and function. We believe the best-designed products reflect your personal style and are a joy to use.
- They’re expert approved. In addition to our team of editors, we tap a range of designers, makers, renovators, and all-around knowledgeable people to share their intel.
- They’re endorsed by people who actually own them. We pay close attention to real reviews to know that they pass the test IRL.